For Photographers

How Much is too Much? An Addendum to Jasmine Star's Article on Retouching

Two nights ago I read Jasmine Star's post answering a reader's question of how much photo retouching is too much. And while I agreed with most of the article, the question kept coming to my mind. "How much IS too much for me--and why?"

Yesterday, while I was browsing through a wedding blog post, the subject came to mind again. Every face was airbrushed to porcelain perfection. Every forehead was uncreased, every smile was paper white, and every eye glittered unnaturally. I'm not saying that they were extreme or untactful; the enhancements were subtle. But they still bothered me. A lot. It took me a few minutes to figure out why. Why did it bother me so much? It was telling an embellished story. This may not seem like the end of the world--after all, who doesn't like to look their best? The problem is that I can't relate to those photos any more than I can to a magazine feature with models. Instead of the photos drawing me in and making me feel like a witness to their joy, I feel like I am looking at a world far away where people don't have any pores. I don't know anyone like that. Faces have pores. Teeth were not made to be paper white, and if someone's eyes glowed like that in real life I would be convinced that vampires were real.

My purpose and passion as a photographer is to observe and portray the beauty I find in reality, and in doing so, to inspire others to see the world differently. The problem with portraying reality in a way that does not align with reality is that when the rare and coveted moments of timeless beauty, intense joy, or even grief come along, we have trained those around us to be looking for something that only exists after photoshop. We have trained ourselves to apply edits across the board  in the hopes of perfecting our subjects, rather than embracing what makes them unique and real.

Some photographers' entire purpose is to create fantasy. There is a place for that and I appreciate it the same way that I appreciate unicorns. Unicorns are beautiful, mystical, perfectly formed--and not real. In fact, if I saw one, I would be terrified. Horses are also beautiful--but in an altogether different way that is actually relateable. We can remember the tickle of their breath in our hands, how it feels to run our hands under their mane, and certainly how they smell. They are beautiful in a way that stirs us deeper emotionally--because of that reality. But if you put a photo of a them side by side, a horse's real beauty pales in comparison to the glamour of fantasy, making it harder for us to remember what we loved about the horse in the first place. 

Many photographers set out to make horses into unicorns. You lose something when you do this. Something real. If we spend our time embellishing reality, we lose sight of it. And if we define ourselves as storytellers we must ask ourselves: What story are we telling? Anyone can make up a good story. Not everyone has the eyes to observe one. 

I'm here to tell a story that is true--full of wrinkles, snorting laughter, imperfect teeth, and love. Lots of love.

Here's to more photographers opening both eyes to real beauty. Here's to more self-proclaimed photo-journalistic photographers coming back to their roots of story documenting. And by doing so, telling a good story.

What's In My Bag // Central Arkansas Wedding Photographer

I get asked about my gear a lot. I suppose this is because of the prevailing thought that your gear defines you, or that anyone can do great things with a "nice camera." I'll not go into why that is completely false--but just trust me--it's false! 

Confession: I don't think anyone who knows me could accuse me of being a minimalist--packrat could just about be my middle name. Stamps,  interesting things to be repurposed, or my collection of letters and cards dating from age 6--I like keeping things. HOWEVER, the buck stops at my camera bag. And I learned early on to my great delight that I didn't have to have ever single lens created to be creatively successful at photography! Did you catch that? I'll say it again. 

You don't need to have every single piece of gear created!

You just don't. Some of the most successful photographers use ONE LENS 90% of the time. So with that said, whatever gear you have, own it! Know your lens inside and out! (Reverse lens technique, anyone?) If you can be completely competent with the gear you have, that is huge. If you aren't, practice until you are! (Preaching to the choir at this point as I recently bit the bullet and dove headfirst into the world of off camera flash, aka OCF)

So without further lectures or confessions--no judging of my postage stamp collection--here's what's in my bag.

   And just for giggles and grins...(no pun intended) I recently added these babies to my gear for...well babies. Everyone needs a good noisemaker in their bag. Now I have two.  Thank you, Puerto Rico Souvenir shop.

And just for giggles and grins...(no pun intended) I recently added these babies to my gear for...well babies. Everyone needs a good noisemaker in their bag. Now I have two.  Thank you, Puerto Rico Souvenir shop.

*Canon 5d Mark ii  - Canon 40d as backup (Not pictured)

*Canon 50mm 1.4  - On my camera 90% of the time!

*Canon 24-70L 2.8 - Barely use it, but glad to have it when the need arises

*Canon 85 1.8 - I love this lens! Before I went full frame I had stopped using it as much because of the cropped sensor and often being is tight spaces--but now! It is amazing! 

*2 Canon 600-ex Speedlites - One on camera, one on a light stand


Oh yeah, and what is the bag? Well it is kind of like unending musical chairs, as I rarely need to carry all of my equipment at one time. But here's a little glimpse.

  Shootsac duo of the classic + Tote & Shoot

Shootsac duo of the classic + Tote & Shoot

  *Crumpler Haven camera pouch I LOVE this. Basically any purse, backpack, beach bag, or suitcase can become a camera bag. Versatility. What's not to love about that?

*Crumpler Haven camera pouch I LOVE this. Basically any purse, backpack, beach bag, or suitcase can become a camera bag. Versatility. What's not to love about that?

That's it! Sometimes less IS more. Except for when you just need give a home to any baby/wedding shower's tissue paper re-use....not that I would know from experience.

So what's in YOUR bag? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you!